Managing Aggression and Agitation in Dementia: Approaches and Interventions

Recently updated on May 30th, 2024 at 11:47 am

Managing Aggression and Agitation in Dementia

According to WHO, over fifty-five million people have dementia. These high numbers tell us that this issue won’t die down soon. However, there are many ways to make the lives of those affected and those around them much easier. To do that, it’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and different methods to help.

Dementia Symptom

Dementia Symptom

People affected by dementia lose their ability to negotiate new information and stimulus. This lack of mental functioning results in creating the following symptoms in patients.

Cognitive Changes

  • Losing or misplacing things
  • Getting lost when walking or driving
  • Losing track of time
  • Difficulties solving problems or making decisions
  • Memory loss (which is usually noticed by other people)
  • Problems following conversations or trouble finding words
  • Difficulties performing familiar tasks
  • Forgetting recent events
  • Problems communicating or finding the right words

Dementia Behavioral Changes

Dementia Behavioral Changes

  • Feeling anxious, sad, or angry (because of memory loss)
  • Personality changes
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Being less interested in other people’s emotions
  • Depression
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucination
  • Along with their cognitive decline, the symptoms above will contribute to causing relentlessness and Agitation in Dementia patients.

Aggression in Dementia

Aggression in Dementia

As dementia progresses, the person may show signs of dementia aggression. This will be distressing for people around them.

Dementia causes problems in conversing. So there are limited ways for patients to tell others what causes them agitation or distress.

Experiencing distress, agitation, and discomfort for extended periods will lead to signs of aggression in anyone.

To alleviate aggressiveness, it’s essential to see beyond the behavior and consider what may cause it.

Some everyday situations that may lead to agitation and distress include:

  • Fear and fatigue (from trying to make sense of a new confusing world)
  • Environmental changes, such as travel, hospitalization, or the presence of houseguests
  • Their mental and physical health – for example, they may have discomfort or pain that they are unable to communicate or solve
  • Moving to a new location or nursing home
  • Feeling that they’re not being listened to or understood

Dementia can affect a person’s personality and habits. However, a person who has never been aggressive before may not show drastic signs of aggression, if any at all.

Dementia Aggression Treatment

Dementia Aggression Treatment

Agitation and aggression happen for a reason, even if the cause is unclear to us. To combat this, you must first understand the person and the source of this aggression.

If someone starts showing signs of aggression, then try to find the causes and do your best to remove them. Below are some tips that’ll help reduce and remove aggression:

  • Limit the amount of caffeine intake the person drinks
  • Keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day
  • Speak calmly to them. Listen to their concerns and frustrations
  • Show them that you understand if the person is angry or fearful
  • Keep well-loved objects like photographs around the house to help the person feel more secure
  • Use soothing music, reading, or walks
  • Reduce noise
  • Try to distract them with a favourite snack, object, or activity.

If Patients Become Overly Aggressive

If the person’s aggression escalates to screaming and possibly physical harm, then protect yourself and others.

If you have to stay, then keep a distance from them. Also, try to protect the person from harming themselves.

Safe Environment for Dementia Patients

Dementia patients require constant monitoring and an environment that prevents their lack of cognitive capacity from damaging themselves.

Use locks

Use locks

View people with dementia as children. Anything that may potentially harm them needs to be kept locked away. That includes anything that could possibly cause harm, such as medicines, alcohol, cleaning supplies, guns, dangerous utensils, and tools.

Adjust Water Temperature

Adjust Water Temperature

Adjusting the water to a lower temperature will prevent people with dementia from getting burnt.

Prevent falls

Prevent falls

Avoid leaving extension cords, scatter rugs, papers, or any type of items that may cause them to fall. You may even add plastic mats in the bathroom for extra precautions.

What is a Risk Factor? And What are Some Dementia Risk Factors?

Risk factors include the aspects of lifestyles and things that can increase the chances of developing a disease.

On their own, they can not cause a disease. Instead, they increase the chances of developing the said disease.

Aging can be considered one of the biggest risk factors for dementia. This means as people age, generally around ages between 65 and 69, the risk of developing dementia increases. Around 2 in every 100 persons have dementia.

Avoiding dementia risk factors doesn’t guarantee a 100 percent chance of not developing the disease. But preventing and solving the following issues can drastically reduce the chances.

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Lack of Cognitive Engagement
  • Depression
  • Social Isolation

Why do Physical Risk Factors Cause Dementia?

Smoking

Long-term exposure to cigarette smoke is linked to oxidative stress, which is connected to the onset of dementia.

Smoking also increases the chances of developing risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, and hypertension.

High Blood Pressure

The risk of dementia, particularly vascular dementia, increases when someone also has high blood pressure.

People with consistently high blood pressure, mainly from 45 to 65, have a higher chance of developing dementia compared to those with normal blood pressure.

High Alcohol Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the strongest risk factors for developing dementia. This is because immoderate drinking causes neurotoxic effects on the brain.

Poor Diet

Having heart issues can increase your chances of developing dementia. So, to reduce the chances of developing the disease, it’s essential to consume a diet suitable to upkeep your heart.

Too much saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol levels, too much salt can result in high blood pressure (hypertension), and too much sugar raises the risk of type 2 diabetes. These conditions are also associated with poor heart health and the chances of dementia.

Why Do Psychological Risk Factors Cause Dementia?

Social Isolation

Social Isolation causes several diseases which promote dementia. Some include high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and much more.

Depression

Depression

Depression can impair cognitive functions. People who experience this mental ailment in mid- or later life have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Whether depression is a risk factor is still unclear. Many believe this theory; others say that depression is an early sign of dementia, while some think it’s both.

Lack of Cognitive Engagement

Engagement in cognitively stimulating work and activities may slow cognitive decline and dementia.

Think of your brain as a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger and healthier it becomes. The same is said about our cognitive decline.

If a person is regularly engaged in social and cognitive activities, they will increase their cognitive ability and reduce the chances of developing dementia.

Dementia Care for loved ones

If you’re caring for a loved one, know that your role in managing daily tasks will increase as the disease progresses.

To combat the strain of being a caretaker, try to limit the challenges. Below are some easy ways to reduce the stress from caretaking while still giving your dependant the care they need.

Schedule wisely

Schedule wisely

Tasks like bathing and Medication Management are more manageable when the person is most alert and refreshed.

Involve the person

Let them do as much as possible. This strategy will allow them to feel less sick and much more refreshed. It’ll also give you a little time for personal care. Just ensure the stuff you ask of them is easy, e.g., setting the table.

Follow the doctor’s advice

Make sure you keep a doctor in your life. Ask professionals what needs to be done and try implementing their advice. Avoid missing checkups.

Intervention for Dementia Care

Being a full-time caretaker for dementia patients is a lot of work. Especially if the caregiver has another occupation, the everyday schedule of working and being a full-time caregiver can sometimes feel overwhelming.

If at any time you feel like the work is too much to handle, then don’t be afraid to ask for help. You could reach out to family members to help watch or provide you Assistance with Daily Living.

If you’re unable to rely on assistance from family, you can turn to healthcare workers for help. These professionals can provide specialized care for seniors, including advice and support tailored to their needs.

Conclusion

Dementia isn’t a life-threatening illness. But it can cause poor quality of life. Therefore, it’s essential for us and our loved ones to avoid any risk factors that may cause this disease. And use whichever means to help the loved ones that are already affected.

Though dealing with a dementia patient is challenging, it doesn’t make it impossible. Our modern society provides several ways to support our elders. The community’s professionals can help assist in caretaking duties and provide the advice needed to help dementia patients.

By having the assistance and the right amount of knowledge, you’d be able to properly care for those affected and help prevent others from developing dementia.

Tanner Gish

Tanner Gish (Certified Dementia Practitioner, CDP®) is president of Loving Homecare, chapter leader of the Foundation for Senior Services, and community educator on topics relating to home care, aging, dementia, and the relationship between adult children and their aging parents. He is also a Gallup certified Strengths Coach, and he loves empowering the Loving Homecare care team to overcome challenges and to build deeper relationships through Strengths-based coaching. He has his master’s degree in New Testament Theology and bachelor’s degree in International Business from Biola University. Tanner and his wife live in Historic Uptown Whittier, California where both love serving their community, escaping to Northern California to visit their families, and traveling to visit friends living and working overseas as much as possible.

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